Over the last few years there has been an explosion of new options in accommodations, both in the type and in how we make the arrangements. For the majority of rooms travel agents have been replaced by booking sites that offer deal discounts, reward programs, insurance and a limited support if something goes wrong. The newest tools gaining in popularity are the networking sites that connect travellers with local hosts providing the use of their couch or the rental of a beach house.
Most hotels are still booked most often by well established sites like Expedia and Travelocity. These sites offer reward programs, discounts for members and an excellent support. Gaining popularity are discount sites like Booking.com and Hotels.com. I expand on each bellow but it is always best to check several sites for the same property. The pricing differences can be very surprising.
Hotwire and Priceline both offer secret hotels by location and star rating. Priceline also lets you bid on hotel categories in a specific location. Both have an administration and/or resort fees. Some will not be apparent till you check in. There are more details below or if you want more information try BetterBidding. This is a forum for regular users of these sites.
If I am be going to be staying anywhere for longer than a month I always look for an apartment. Not only does it make an economic sense but I enjoy having my own kitchen. My experiences with long term rentals have always been positive but there is always the chance that there can be unpleasant surprises. VRBO has a large database and it is an easy to navigate site. Sublet is also an excellent option. I have recently had success with a Rentalia for booking condos in Spain. The sites are set up to promote peak seasons with daily rates. Off-season and long term rates are often not published. Send the owners a message through the site requesting a quote. Last winter I rented a wonderful one bedroom condo on the Costa del Sol for $500 per month over the winter. The same unit advertised summer rate was $175 per night.
If your time is flexible SST Last-minute-travel is an Austrian company that sells, and auctions hotel vouchers through its Ebay store. The pricing is excellent but the vouchers have limitations; expiry dates and usage that is exclusively outside of high seasons and holidays. I bought four vouchers and three worked out great and one had an earlier expiry date and was useless for me. This is a a great way to stay in pricy cities like Rome or Venice. Another popular auction site is SkyAuction. They also bid for vacation packages and cruises.
Here is the breakdown.
One of the largest sites with an extensive database. Quick and easy with a good support. Payment for the property is taken by Expedia. The site also provides bookings for car rentals, airfare, and complete packages. An excellent option if you want to take care of all travel details in one place.
The majority of my bookings are done here. They are consistently priced at or below the other discount sites and have the option to search for lower priced “individual” rooms for solo travelers. In Europe they also have listings for small Inns and Penzions that other sites don’t bother with.
Hotels rooms are offered by location and star ratings. The hotel name is provided only after the room has been purchased. Many hotels charge a resort fee ($10 – $40 per night) based on facilities. Before buying look at Hotwire’s regular listings and view the same location and star rating; you can usually predict which hotel is the likely “secret” hotel and then bid accordingly.
Bid on an unspecified hotel in a specific area by its star rating. Ratings are based on amenities not the price, so the category average price can be a lot higher than the lowest hotel. Do not bid based on the average. Priceline charges a one time administration fee which is high if you stay only one night. Great deals can be had especially for 4/5 star resort; but be careful.
Rent furnished apartments and houses short term or long term from landlords, subleases and roommates. Currently the site provides photos, details and contact information to the owner. Great option for long term stays and off season stays.
This site rents, last minute, unused timeshares. These units are not subsidized and you DO NOT have to attend any presentations. The suites and the resorts are excellent but are limited to North America and the Caribbean. The suites are only booked in weekly increments. The value is very good.
The website provides a platform for members to “surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home. The “couches” may actually be couches or an air mattresses or a nice rooms. Although there is typically no charge it is proper etiquette to buy the host dinner and/or assist with some chores. This can be a great way to network and gain friends when traveling. Some caution is necessary.
Airbnb is rentals units from local residents. Large selection with over 1,000,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. You can search for shared room, single rooms or entire houses.
Extensive site dedicated to youth hostels. Hostel World provides booking service to 30,000 properties in 180 countries. It also provides a guarantee for your hostel booking. The site also provides bookings for B&Bs.
Homestays allow guests to book a room in a local person’s home on a nightly, weekly or monthly basis for a fee. In all of our homestays there is a host present during the stay.
Vacation rentals by owner. A vast listing of private owner properties (1,000,000,+). The site is easy to navigate and takes full payment and a deposit on the site, simplifying the process of private rentals. You can even purchase a cancellation insurance. This is are great option if you require multiple rooms and/or a kitchen.
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